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article imageCraft cannabis growers ignored in rush to legalize pot in Canada

By Karen Graham     May 20, 2018 in Business
Vancouver - The craft cannabis industry in British Columbia is very concerned over the federal government's lack of progress in creating a promised "micro-cultivation" license for those in their industry and they are demanding action.
Representatives of five groups of craft cannabis growers and sellers delivered an open letter to the Vancouver offices of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and B.C. Attorney-General David Eby on Friday in the hopes of prodding the government to move ahead with the regulatory changes that had been promised last fall over licensing for micro-growers.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the groups, representing literally thousands of people employed in the craft cannabis industry in British Columbia want the federal government to "urgently establish a process so they can obtain licenses and bid for provincial contracts to supply legal cannabis."
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What Health Canada has to say
On March 19, 2018, Health Canada released an updated set of proposals based on feedback from 3,200 people on the nation’s regulatory approach to cannabis. Keep in mind that the proposals are separate from the cannabis legalization bill to be voted on next month.
But one section entitled 2.3 Thresholds for Micro-cultivation and Micro-processing addresses rules for new micro-cultivation and micro-processing licenses.
The proposed licenses for craft cannabis growers and retailers are supposed to be a bit easier to obtain than those licenses to grow medical marijuana already obtained by large companies.
Craft Cannabis
According to Hemp Industry Daily, key points of the new licenses include:
1. Micro-cultivation permits would authorize a canopy area of no more than 200 square meters (2,153 square feet).
2. A micro-processing permit would allow the processing of no more than 600 kilograms (13,228 pounds) of dried cannabis (or equivalent) per year, or the entire output of a single micro-cultivation license.
And while Ian Dawkins, the principal consultant of British Columbia-based Althing Consulting said, “The proposed size of the canopy for micro is pretty small, but it’s workable," he added, "the packaging restrictions are ridiculous and textbook over-regulation. They aren’t based on an assessment of real risk.”
While the proposed size limit for cultivation is only 200 square meters, the open letter proposes it be increased to from 500 to 1,000 square meters. As for the packaging restrictions, the letter proposes that packaging and labeling restrictions be loosened so craft cannabis can differentiate itself from mass-produced marijuana, which is actually important to the industry.
Licensing for micro-cannabis growers
Health Canada's proposed final regulations will not require Parliamentary approval. Instead, they will be enacted after the Cannabis Act wins final approval. This means the micro-cultivation and micro-processing permits will not even be written up until after the cannabis legalization bill wins final approval.
But here's the sticky wick - Health Canada has no intention of proposing a transition period for recreational marijuana products, and this means that licensing, as well as new packaging and labeling requirements will go into effect immediately.
And, at this late date, the federal government has yet to address the regulations for outdoor cultivation, the introduction of new plant genetics into the legal market, and restricting the number of micro-cultivation or micro-processing licenses at one site.
And all this is disturbing. Roxanne Judson of the Ethical Cannabis Producers Alliance, and a craft cannabis grower, told the Toronto Star that while the craft cannabis industry sits in a sort of limbo, waiting for government action on licensing, big corporations, worth billions of dollars are snapping up all the available contracts around the country.
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“By the time the rules are written to include people like us,” Judson said, “there’ll be little to no contracts left, effectively shutting us out.” Judson added, “It’s like starting the race 10 seconds late. The smaller producers that have been the backbone of this market for decades aren’t even allowed to apply yet.”
Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada, said there is no way small cannabis growers can compete against regulations that have been written for large companies. “A small cannabis farmer can’t compete in this world,” Dawkins said. “And that’s a concern when there are tens of thousands of small cannabis farmers across this province.”
CBC Canada also notes that in B.C., many small-time cannabis producers hold licenses under the medical marijuana regime that allow them to grow cannabis only for themselves or for specific patients. Selling to a dispensary is considered to be illegal, although a "gray area" has sprung up after Vancouver and Victoria started granting business licenses to pot shops.
More about British columbia, craft cannabis growers, microcultivation licence, Legalization, Ottawa
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